Never did I think that cross-country skis would become part of my quiver.
Alas, they haven’t yet, but color me intrigued about the possibility of taking up the Nordic side of skiing. I certainly would not be alone in such an endeavor.
It has been a big year for Nordic skiing. According to the Cross Country Ski Areas Association, sales of cross-country skis, boots, and bindings are up more than 30 percent on average compared to sales through mid-February last season. Several retailers noted that sales have doubled or more. Heck, cross-country skier Jesse Diggins, who trained at Stratton, this week became the first U.S. woman to clinch the World Cup in cross-country skiing.
Nordic skiing has, indeed, been having a moment.
According to a retailer survey report, cross-country ski sales were up over last year’s sales by 96 percent with only four percent of respondents saying they were even. Fifty-nine percent of retailers were up 21 percent or more. Boot binding and snowshoe sales also saw dramatic spikes. Fat bikes did not see a significant jump in retail sales due in part to a lack of inventory left over from the summer biking craze. A majority of retailers saw even sales with last year and only 14 percent saw an increase of 21 to 30 percent.
The conclusion, according to the CCSAA: Retail sales of all Nordic product this year was like no other.
“Yes, absolutely. It’s grown,” said Sugarloaf’s Tom Butler, the vice president of skier services who is also in charge of the resort’s Outdoor Center, boasting Maine’s largest Nordic circuit.
“It even started last year because it was one of those things that people could do when the [COVID-19] lockdown happened and there was still snow on the trails. So, people were still going out and skiing and it was one of the things they could do to continue a little normalcy in their lives. This year has been really good. We’ve been seeing a lot more families going in there. We have a junior program that we started this year that we had really good numbers for. It’s been great to see. It’s just a fabulous way to get out there and just kind of forget about things for a while.” (Check out the complete interview with Butler in the upcoming spring edition of New England Ski Journal.)
The thing is, it’s awfully difficult for me to envision cross-country skiing when the mountain is so close by. What will Nordic give me that Alpine lacks?
“Everything hurts after a good day on cross-country skis,” Marianne Borowski told New England Ski Journal last season. Borowski has been skiing the tracks of northern New Hampshire, including Bear Notch Ski Touring, Bretton Woods Nordic Center, Great Glen Trails and Jackson Ski Touring Foundation, since 2003. She taught at Jackson for six years, and was the ski school director for three.
“It’s that ‘good hurt,’ she said, “the feeling that you have moved and accomplished a big achievement. Perhaps it’s that every muscle feels like it’s been utilized. You feel little muscles never felt before, likely the muscles used for balance. Skate skiing is the best overall exercise that I know. It’s more aerobic than biking. Both the upper and lower body is working hard, even for those like myself who are not racers. It’s an excellent way to stay in shape, or get in better shape, over the winter.”
My wife has always brought up her desire to begin Nordic skiing, and frankly, since she’s fearful of the Alpine side of things, it would be a nice way to share my passion for the outdoors with her. Knowing where to start, however, is a challenge.
“[Newcomers] want groomed terrain and rentals, and need to take a lesson first thing,” Borowski said. “For beginners or casual skiers, the number of kilometers is not as important, it is more about having good conditions for an enjoyable day out on the snow. Having a fair amount of easy terrain will be important, not just a short easy loop in a field or on a golf course.
“For more accomplished skiers, the variety of terrain and the distance will be important, while rentals and lessons and very gentle beginner terrain really isn’t. An advantage of skiing in the White Mountains area is that there are many different cross-country ski areas quite close together, allowing for a good variety of terrain and vibe at each area to enjoy.”
Maybe we’ll join the crowd at some point during the winter of 2021-22. There is still too much downhill in this season’s springtime future to add any new wrinkles.
If you see me spending money normally dedicated to my Alpine habit on Nordic gear instead next season, then you’ll know I’ve been sucked in. No need to send help.
Snowbound Festival headed to Boston this November
After taking a year off, due to — what else? — COVID-19, Snowsports Industries of America announced this week that the newly-rebranded Snowbound Festival (aka the Boston Ski Show) will take place Nov. 19-21 at the Hynes Convention Center.
“Everything is trending in the right direction,” Brian Stephenson, director of the Snowbound Festival—a pair of consumer trade shows owned and operated by SIA, told Outside Business Journal. “It changes daily, and we’re working with all of the venues and the local and state health departments to ensure we’re following the latest guidelines. There’s a lot of enthusiasm and excitement for people to get together again and to get in front of consumers, so now we want people to let us know they’re interested in exhibiting.”
The ski show has always been seen as the unofficial kickoff to ski season in New England, a way to generate the stoke for the winter, and an opportunity to score some notable preseason deals. It’ll feel good — and normal — to have it return.
Nashoba Valley pioneer passes away
Nashoba Valley, which made headlines earlier this week when a young adult male collided with a building off-trail and was transported to a hospital, received sad news on Wednesday when the ski area’s founder, Alan Fletcher, passed away.
Fletcher, who created one of the country’s most prolific feeder hills beginning in 1964, was recognized by the New England Ski Museum’s Spirit of Skiing award in 2018. According to the Museum, “Fletcher encouraged ski racing, and the area was a regular stop on the professional circuit in the 1970s. Nashoba was welcoming snowboarding venue in the 1980s at a time when not all ski resorts saw the new sport’s potential, and the area built an early half pipe in 1985.”
Freestyle pioneer Wayne Wong was a close friend of Fletcher, and would return to Nashoba Valley every season for an annual visit. Daughter, Pam, was a member of the 1988 U.S. Olympic Ski Team in Calgary.
Check out a feature that NECN did on Fletcher and Nashoba Valley a few years back for more on the sort of legacy that the man leaves behind.
Catch the latest episode of New England Ski Journal TV
Check out the latest episode of New England Ski Journal TV, where host Meredith Gorman gets the latest from Sugarbush Resort, Bradford Ski Area, Gunstock Mountain Resort, and Loon Mountain Resort.
An all-new episode airs on NESN Monday evening at 6:30. Be sure to tune in.